Writing Forums

Writing Forums is a privately-owned, community managed writing environment. We provide an unlimited opportunity for writers and poets of all abilities, to share their work and communicate with other writers and creative artists. We offer an experience that is safe, welcoming and friendly, regardless of your level of participation, knowledge or skill. There are several opportunities for writers to exchange tips, engage in discussions about techniques, and grow in your craft. You can also participate in forum competitions that are exciting and helpful in building your skill level. There's so much more for you to explore!

Do your characters ever take control? (*WARNING - ADULT THEME*) (2 Viewers)

Status
Not open for further replies.

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I guess I should explain my question. I was writing a chapter that I had pre-decided needed to be a married couple having an argument over an expensive renovation. He had agreed to look at samples when he came home from work. She had laid everything out on the kitchen island for him to see. He was then supposed to get annoyed at the amount of money they were spending and she was supposed to get defensive. This was to play into my plot and characterization.

However, they are very much in love, and extremely physically attracted to each other. When he got home, Instead of discussing the reno, he poured them each a cold glass of chardonnay. After making out at the kitchen island, they drop to the Persian carpet on the floor and get it on. Getting up afterward to find clothes flung all around the room they get dressed and have dinner. The argument never takes place. End of chapter.

It felt like they were writing themselves.

Afterward, I realized that I am so engrossed in this story that when I put myself into a character’s head and think of what they would do in this circumstance, there is usually only one clear path. And in this case, the second scene actually plays into the plot and character motivations even better than my first idea.

Hence my question, do your characters ever take control?

(Examples if you please)

 

SueC

Staff member
Senior Mentor
I guess I should explain my question. I was writing a chapter that I had pre-decided needed to be a married couple having an argument over an expensive renovation. He had agreed to look at samples when he came home from work. She had laid everything out on the kitchen island for him to see. He was then supposed to get annoyed at the amount of money they were spending and she was supposed to get defensive. This was to play into my plot and characterization.

However, they are very much in love, and extremely physically attracted to each other. When he got home, Instead of discussing the reno, he poured them each a cold glass of chardonnay. After making out at the kitchen island, they drop to the Persian carpet on the floor and get it on. Getting up afterward to find clothes flung all around the room they get dressed and have dinner. The argument never takes place. End of chapter.

It felt like they were writing themselves.

Afterward, I realized that I am so engrossed in this story that when I put myself into a character’s head and think of what they would do in this circumstance, there is usually only one clear path. And in this case, the second scene actually plays into the plot and character motivations even better than my first idea.

Hence my question, do your characters ever take control?

(Examples if you please)


Hi Taylor,
I struggle with this, but with a different emotion I guess you could say. The closest I can come to this, for an example, is with the first book I wrote. I worked really hard on this bad character - he was an alcoholic who abused his wife and children - and I was doing okay until one day I realized that the only character in my book who had no voice was this bad guy. So, at first I injected a little back story as to why he grew to be the man he was, but he just took over then and ultimately became an extremely compelling person by the end of the story! My great weakness in writing is bad guys, and believe me when I tell you that people have asked my why I felt compelled to make him softer, in a way, or I guess you could say more sympathetic. I can't very well say that he made me do it! LOL. But in truth, I think when it comes to things like this, we inject more of our own personality than a made up one.

Maybe, in your story, you (personally) would prefer to be intimate with someone you care for, rather than quarrel over issues like money, and you inject that personality into your story.

One of my core beliefs is that, if a person is bad, there is a reason for it. The character in my book had an abusive father who was terribly mean to his son and I couldn't complete the book without including that information, or maybe he did it for me. Even though, from a marketing standpoint, I probably should have let him stand on his own and suffer the consequences of being a rotten guy, I just let him tell me otherwise. It's like I know that men or women who behave badly, drink, hurt others - they don't really want to be like that. They want to be loved and cared for like everyone else. They are just damaged.

Yikes - sounds a little sappy. But yes, I know what you are experiencing! :)

Sue
 

EternalGreen

Senior Member
In your story, it sounds like the conflict is getting buried to simmer. This can if it pops up again and is even more significant.

I’m writing a chapter where one character begins measuring another for a dress which will be presented to her as a gift. The scene may or may not turn into . . . something else.

The characters were intended to wait until the dress was finished and set up a “whole thing,” but they just . . . could not wait. I'm hoping I don't mess up this scene.

Not only does this feel more authentic, it also helps the plot along. If the chemistry prevents them from being careful . . . bad things might happen.
 

acatchynick

Senior Member
If you let the characters write, the story will be different than you want. My first story ended very differently than I thought. There were so many characters and I was very kind to all of them. I even spoiled them. As a result, all I did while writing the book was to fix the logic mistakes between the characters' stories.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
Hi Taylor,

Maybe, in your story, you (personally) would prefer to be intimate with someone you care for, rather than quarrel over issues like money, and you inject that personality into your story.

I'm glad you pointed this out. I have worried, as you say, that I am making my world a place I would want to be, so I am wary that I am not portraying enough conflict. I still have about 30,000 words left, so there is still time. But in my story, the bad guys are basically good people who cross the line legally and morally, but only with respect to money, so I don't have to wander into the sensitive areas of physical or mental abuse. Like you, I would find that very difficult to write.

So far with my couple, there is a problem lurking under the surface. But realistically, there are many people out there who don't realize they are in peril. I don't want to give away my plot because I hope you read my book, but to give you an example of the underlying conflict they are facing, it is something like the subprime mortgage crisis. Many people acted unethically, and the situation bubbled under the surface for a long time. People and society did not even realize how unstable things were until it all crashed down. It will, however, be important that there are significant consequences for my bad guys.

But this scene with my married couple works for now, because money and power, no matter how it was derived can be a form of an aphrodisiac for some. So I will make that play out for a while.

I like that with your bad guy you provided a back story. There are a lot of stories about abusive bad guys. People like to believe that certain characteristics, like physical abuse, should have zero-tolerance or justification, and rightly so, so it's a tricky area, because we don't want to think about any other reality. I'm sure people who work with the mentally ill could tell us a lot of stories like you wrote. Although not the typical marketable black and white story, your's has more depth and is more realistic. And at the end of the day, we have to be true to ourselves, if we want to write with heart.
DF58n96npSuCkRfgSvecdNx5B-qqPLb0gHfSUbEwun7Va8nzKXzGv2yOY8cthhYtSc_68jES7NMzhVyqVZCKYWekBFrIneV5rDhVAV3DhTCwHLqHxf-GB503lqaZ76C-QKxqsbZp


 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
In your story, it sounds like the conflict is getting buried to simmer. This can if it pops up again and is even more significant.

Yes...that is my plan for now. As long as I can get control of these two...lol!

I’m writing a chapter where one character begins measuring another for a dress which will be presented to her as a gift. The scene may or may not turn into . . . something else.

The characters were intended to wait until the dress was finished and set up a “whole thing,” but they just . . . could not wait. I'm hoping I don't mess up this scene.

Not only does this feel more authentic, it also helps the plot along. If the chemistry prevents them from being careful . . . bad things might happen.

Or very good things? :)
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
If you let the characters write, the story will be different than you want. My first story ended very differently than I thought. There were so many characters and I was very kind to all of them. I even spoiled them. As a result, all I did while writing the book was to fix the logic mistakes between the characters' stories.

I love that you describe it as "spoiled them"...lol! It can be a good thing though. I mean, we read for an escape no?

EDIT: It makes them seem so alive.
 
Last edited:

ironpony

Senior Member
I struggle with this as well. Sometimes my characters taking control is for the better, but other times when they do it, it goes against the theme you are intending. In that case, you may have to alter the characters, so they will make decisions that will fit the theme I find.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
I guess I should explain my question. I was writing a chapter that I had pre-decided needed to be a married couple having an argument over an expensive renovation. He had agreed to look at samples when he came home from work. She had laid everything out on the kitchen island for him to see. He was then supposed to get annoyed at the amount of money they were spending and she was supposed to get defensive. This was to play into my plot and characterization.

However, they are very much in love, and extremely physically attracted to each other. When he got home, Instead of discussing the reno, he poured them each a cold glass of chardonnay. After making out at the kitchen island, they drop to the Persian carpet on the floor and get it on. Getting up afterward to find clothes flung all around the room they get dressed and have dinner. The argument never takes place. End of chapter.

It felt like they were writing themselves.

Afterward, I realized that I am so engrossed in this story that when I put myself into a character’s head and think of what they would do in this circumstance, there is usually only one clear path. And in this case, the second scene actually plays into the plot and character motivations even better than my first idea.

Hence my question, do your characters ever take control?

(Examples if you please)


In the novel 'Breakfast of Champions' Kurt Vonnegut (the author) actually injects himself in to the story - and is surprised that he's there. At one point, he's in a bar and the barman is about to ask him a question he doesn't want to answer, so he makes the phone ring to avoid the question. His comment when this happens is something similar to: People think that authors control their characters via steel bars attached to them, but it's actually more like old worn out rubber-bands.

Isn't it part of the joy of writing when a character takes on a life their own?
Hi Taylor,
I struggle with this, but with a different emotion I guess you could say. The closest I can come to this, for an example, is with the first book I wrote. I worked really hard on this bad character - he was an alcoholic who abused his wife and children - and I was doing okay until one day I realized that the only character in my book who had no voice was this bad guy. So, at first I injected a little back story as to why he grew to be the man he was, but he just took over then and ultimately became an extremely compelling person by the end of the story! My great weakness in writing is bad guys, and believe me when I tell you that people have asked my why I felt compelled to make him softer, in a way, or I guess you could say more sympathetic. I can't very well say that he made me do it! LOL. But in truth, I think when it comes to things like this, we inject more of our own personality than a made up one.

Maybe, in your story, you (personally) would prefer to be intimate with someone you care for, rather than quarrel over issues like money, and you inject that personality into your story.

One of my core beliefs is that, if a person is bad, there is a reason for it. The character in my book had an abusive father who was terribly mean to his son and I couldn't complete the book without including that information, or maybe he did it for me. Even though, from a marketing standpoint, I probably should have let him stand on his own and suffer the consequences of being a rotten guy, I just let him tell me otherwise. It's like I know that men or women who behave badly, drink, hurt others - they don't really want to be like that. They want to be loved and cared for like everyone else. They are just damaged.

Yikes - sounds a little sappy. But yes, I know what you are experiencing! :)

Sue

I really like writing the bad guys & gals. They tend to have more texture and are therefore compelling. That said though, What is bad and good? Every villain outside of cartoons has depth and reasons for what they do. Villains are simply characters with goals (that are good in their mind) that are contrary to what you main character desires. Everyone is the hero in their own story.
 

JBF

Staff member
Board Moderator
On occasion. Usually this is a result of the sort of dramatic stuff that looks good in the outline but ultimately runs counter to the nature of the characters involved.

Two incidences:

In Book II, I had plans for an exchange for two characters who'd been at odds the better part of fifteen years. There was some violence in their past dealings, always one-sided, and this was supposed to demonstrate that the protag (who wound up taking the beatings) could stand his ground without things sliding sideways into an out-and-out brawl. As plotted, it was a scene of unspoken threats and high tension that ended with his listening to his erstwhile better angels and walking away.

Well...funny story. Evidently when you keep somebody in a pressure cooker for fifteen of their twenty-odd years, and they recently returned from eighteen months in a foreign country while angry people with automatic weaponry were trying to kill them, and they bounce 50/50 between an opioid painkiller haze and withdrawals thereof, and you put them in close proximity to their chief antagonist out of the line-of-sight of respectable society...sometimes those better angels don't show up.

Weird part is, the bloodletting that resulted actually wound up fitting better into the character arc. Go figure.

The second is Book III. Same protagonist, back in the same foreign country, albeit in a different capacity than his first visit. He meets a woman and, to the considerable surprise of of both parties, they get each other...until he figures out she's been lying to him. Their next meeting was slated to be a fire-and-thunder exchange. Real sink the knife and twist it kind of thing.

Just a few problems. One, she's highly conflict avoidant, and he knows that if it turns into a shouting match she'll just sull and close off and that'll be the end of it. Two, as much as it stings, the rationale behind the lie makes sense to him. And three, this is the same character who spent most of Book II careening from one near-disaster to the next, including the beatdown that wasn't supposed to happen. Somewhere in there he figures out that he might have something of a temper and that unless he gets a handle on it there's a good chance it'll kill him.

So they defuse it and go on. It lacks the drama I'd originally envisioned, but it's more in line with the two characters and the personalities that made them work in the first place. Plus, it demonstrates something of the protag we haven't seen before.

So there's that.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I struggle with this as well. Sometimes my characters taking control is for the better, but other times when they do it, it goes against the theme you are intending. In that case, you may have to alter the characters, so they will make decisions that will fit the theme I find.

Yes, I am just discovering this, that there can be a disparity between what seems natural to the characters and what they need to do to fulfill the theme. At some point I may have to take force the original intent of the characters. But I still wonder why there is this disparity. Have there been times when you have altered a character and then regretted it afterwards?
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
In the novel 'Breakfast of Champions' Kurt Vonnegut (the author) actually injects himself in to the story - and is surprised that he's there. At one point, he's in a bar and the barman is about to ask him a question he doesn't want to answer, so he makes the phone ring to avoid the question. His comment when this happens is something similar to: People think that authors control their characters via steel bars attached to them, but it's actually more like old worn out rubber-bands.

Isn't it part of the joy of writing when a character takes on a life their own?

Yes! But as a novice, experiencing this for the first time, I wasn't prepared for it. Now I just need to figure out how to manage the situation. It is comforting that others struggle as well. That's why WF is so useful to get feedback...so we know the things we experience with writing are normal.

But it is becoming more clear to me that writing fiction is a very powerful thing. We tap into our own subconscious for inspiration and content, and then we think we have the power as the author to tell the story...but maybe we have less power than we think.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
When I'm in full flow, yes, when I'm not, it's like moving them forward one painful choice at a time.

I haven't yet experienced the painful choices yet, but I'm sure I will. I wonder if there will be a time when the characters simply won't cooperate.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I haven't yet experienced the painful choices yet, but I'm sure I will. I wonder if there will be a time when the characters simply won't cooperate.

I'm experiencing it now. I don't know why but I'm not getting that cinema screen in my head as usual and it's disconcerting.
I haven't got a clue what happened. My favourite style was MotherHUD and then I tried to write a children's detective story with humour, and lost my way. Now I can't even get back to the MotherHUD style. I can't put my head back there even after reading it several times. There was something I did in those early sections that had me excited and I can't find it again.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
On occasion. Usually this is a result of the sort of dramatic stuff that looks good in the outline but ultimately runs counter to the nature of the characters involved.

Two incidences:

In Book II, I had plans for an exchange for two characters who'd been at odds the better part of fifteen years. There was some violence in their past dealings, always one-sided, and this was supposed to demonstrate that the protag (who wound up taking the beatings) could stand his ground without things sliding sideways into an out-and-out brawl. As plotted, it was a scene of unspoken threats and high tension that ended with his listening to his erstwhile better angels and walking away.

Well...funny story. Evidently when you keep somebody in a pressure cooker for fifteen of their twenty-odd years, and they recently returned from eighteen months in a foreign country while angry people with automatic weaponry were trying to kill them, and they bounce 50/50 between an opioid painkiller haze and withdrawals thereof, and you put them in close proximity to their chief antagonist out of the line-of-sight of respectable society...sometimes those better angels don't show up.

Weird part is, the bloodletting that resulted actually wound up fitting better into the character arc. Go figure.

The second is Book III. Same protagonist, back in the same foreign country, albeit in a different capacity than his first visit. He meets a woman and, to the considerable surprise of of both parties, they get each other...until he figures out she's been lying to him. Their next meeting was slated to be a fire-and-thunder exchange. Real sink the knife and twist it kind of thing.

Just a few problems. One, she's highly conflict avoidant, and he knows that if it turns into a shouting match she'll just sull and close off and that'll be the end of it. Two, as much as it stings, the rationale behind the lie makes sense to him. And three, this is the same character who spent most of Book II careening from one near-disaster to the next, including the beatdown that wasn't supposed to happen. Somewhere in there he figures out that he might have something of a temper and that unless he gets a handle on it there's a good chance it'll kill him.

So they defuse it and go on. It lacks the drama I'd originally envisioned, but it's more in line with the two characters and the personalities that made them work in the first place. Plus, it demonstrates something of the protag we haven't seen before.

So there's that.

This temper issue is interesting. It sounds like the protagonist fell in love, and that desire controls his temper. A key development of your character...that was driven by the character himself. I would think an important theme in your story. One that the reader can relate to and grow by. But did you only discover this twist as you were writing it?
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I'm experiencing it now. I don't know why but I'm not getting that cinema screen in my head as usual and it's disconcerting.
I haven't got a clue what happened. My favourite style was MotherHUD and then I tried to write a children's detective story with humour, and lost my way. Now I can't even get back to the MotherHUD style. I can't put my head back there even after reading it several times. There was something I did in those early sections that had me excited and I can't find it again.

Maybe just start with some characters. Set out a background and profile and then, let them guide you. Don't worry about the style...just see where they take you....
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
Maybe just start with some characters. Set out a background and profile and then, let them guide you. Don't worry about the style...just see where they take you....

That is exactly what I'm doing. I've decided to write and not use the protag's head space to guide me. It's just unravelling. I've planned the next few scenes and know where it's going but can't find the bridges between scenes. It's like I'm detached from everything I'm writing.

I should have just gone straight into the next story using the MothrHUD voice, removed the overly extravagant descriptions and heavy use of adjectives. That voice was my favourite.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top